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Thursday, March 28, 2019

District Told By DoE That They Are Violating Federal Law in Use of Check Yourself Screener

Update from Ronald Boy, Legal at SPS:
I had another phone meeting with the Department of Education this afternoon and received information that conflicts with the previous guidance received.  In light of this, and recognizing the important feedback from our community, we are informing the three schools currently using the Check Yourself screener that its use must be put on hold until direct parent/guardian notification occurs regardless of the type of use (i.e. singular use and universal).


The notification will:

·         Be translated into our top languages;

·         Provided directly to parent/guardians;

·         Detail information about the screener;

·         Inform parent/guardians of their right to inspect the screener; and

·         Inform parent/guardians of their right to opt out.



This type of notification will be our standard in all similar work.   We will also be editing Board Policy to ensure that there is clear guidance for future use.



Thank you for bringing this concern to our attention.  Being responsive to our community and conducting our work in the best manner possible is our priority.
My latest email to the Board; I urge you to also tell them to suspend use of this screener.
Dear Directors,

As I told you, I met with Ronald Boy last week about this screener and possible violations of PPRA.

To recall, Boy said his DoE source said it didn't. Mine did. But Boy also said that the district had violated PPRA but just not for the screener. The district violated PPRA, apparently since 2011, by NOT notifying parents of the existence of Policy 3232 about surveys. The district is supposed to have a policy (you do) and notify parents every year of that policy including being able to examine any survey before it is given AND being able to opt their child out.

That has not happened and did not happen this school year.

Now, my contact in NYC, Leonie Haimson, a noted student data privacy expert, contacted her source at DoE, Michael Hawes, about the Check Yourself Screener. Apparently, Mr. Hawes contacted Mr. Boy and here's what Mr. Boy said to him on March 27, 2019 at 9:01:45 PM EDT:

Michael,

Thank you for your call this afternoon. Seattle Public Schools appreciates the guidance and as a result will be doing the following in regard to the Check Yourself Screener and similar tools:

Direct parent/guardian notification
Informing parents of the use of the screener and their right to:
Review
Opt their children out of its use


The District will also be adding language to existing Board Policy to ensure it explicitly covers this information.
Thank you,
Ronald D. Boy
Senior Assistant General Counsel


So you now know that not only is the district violating PPRA, it is doing it in two ways.   No notification of this policy at any point this school year AND not directing notifying parents about the screener.

As well, the evidence is mounting that the screener is not validated and many professionals in the field are now saying that to reporters.

I urge you to call a halt to the use of this screener before it goes out in widely in publications.
Also, from a Department of Education spokesperson today:

The use of a mental health questionnaire that solicits information from students would be subject to PPRA’s requirements.

Parents who believe their rights have been violated under PPRA may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Student Privacy Policy Office (formerly known as the Family Policy Compliance Office).

4 comments:

Ed said...

"Ron Boy" and the "law" together in a sentance constitutes an oxymoron.

Albert V. must have taken a plea.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

you do know that Universal screeners are important to creating preventative processes right? Sumner does them, OSPI and a multitude of research shows that we desperately need them. Not arguing about the notification process, but school counselors, social workers, and nurses have been begging for a screener for years. Suicidal thoughts and depression are increasing in huge numbers and without screeners there is no way to be preventative, it's all about putting out fires, rather than keeping them from igniting. Now, I am not saying that the Check Yourself screener is the best, however to act like any universal screener is the end of the world isn't the best way to approach this. Can't we approach the district and say okay let's work on a better process rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous, I'll reprint for you but next time, give yourself a name.

"you do know that Universal screeners are important to creating preventative processes right? Sumner does them, OSPI and a multitude of research shows that we desperately need them. Not arguing about the notification process, but school counselors, social workers, and nurses have been begging for a screener for years. Suicidal thoughts and depression are increasing in huge numbers and without screeners there is no way to be preventative, it's all about putting out fires, rather than keeping them from igniting. Now, I am not saying that the Check Yourself screener is the best, however to act like any universal screener is the end of the world isn't the best way to approach this. Can't we approach the district and say okay let's work on a better process rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water?"

1) Yes, universal screeners ARE important. I have consistently written about supports for teens and mental health.

2) I have told the Board and senior management that there are screeners that are 6-9 questions, not 30, that are the gold standard (like in Massachusetts).

This screener is not-validated and so, they are using these kids as guinea pigs AND asking invasive questions.

So my stand against Check Yourself remains. And, there will soon be news stories about both the lack of notification to parents but also the screener itself.

King County had started out with another screener but never has explained why they went to Check Yourself.

It certainly does gather a lot of data about parents and children (or at least what children say about their parents).